It’s holidays season again. I was on the road until the eve of Rosh HaShannah, so I am a little late with my festive post for the beginning of 5776. Not too late I hope, as there is a full year minus a couple of days to go. For this start of the year I chose to present you with a list of seven beautiful synagogues all built in the last 60 years in Europe, North America and Israel, with pictures and information that show that synagogues building is a living art combining tradition and modernity, faith and engineering, part of the living landscape of contemporary Judaism. Seven synagogues like the seven days of the Creation.


(sursa fotografiei: http://www.interiordesign.net/projects/detail/1683-contemporary-worship-ulm-synagogue/)

sursa fotografiei: http://www.interiordesign.net/projects/detail/1683-contemporary-worship-ulm-synagogue/


The Ulm Synagogue is built in a German city with an ancient tradition of Jewish life. The presence of Jews is documented in Ulm since the middle ages, with ups and downs as in many other places in Europe. Jews in Ulm are mentioned as paying taxes since the times of Louis the Bavarian (14th century) and this is also one of the first places where traditional antisemitic libels (‘the poisoning of wells’) showed up. In modern times the history of the community included achievements and expulsions, segregation and the birth as famous figures like Albert Einstein. The synagogue in Ulm combines religious and social functions in a cuboid structure designed by Susanne Gross. It stands close to the place of the older synagogue destroyed by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht.


sursa fotografiei: http://eja.pri.ee/Religion/Uus%20synag2_en.html

sursa fotografiei: http://eja.pri.ee/Religion/Uus%20synag2_en.html


The New Synagogue in Tallin was initiated in the 1990s when Estonia opened to the world, including Jewish tourism in one of the locations where Jewish life flourished in Europe before the Holocaust. The construction company “Kolle” executed the work of the building which includes other institutions relevant to Jewish religious life like a kosher restaurant and ritual bath.


sursa fotografiei: http://urbipedia.com/index.php?title=Sinagoga_Beth_Sholom

sursa fotografiei: http://urbipedia.com/index.php?title=Sinagoga_Beth_Sholom


Crossing the ocean to the United States we find in Chicago one of the most remarkable designs of its kind – Frank Lloyd’s Wright Beth Sholom (Beit Shalom). The pyramidal structure was designed between 1954 and 1958 , its structure with wire glass on the outside and translucent plastic panels inside attracts and captures the light and integrates the geometrical forms with the world outside. The form reminds the structure of the wooden synagogues in the 17th century in Eastern Europe, while the interior with its central ‘bimah’ (podium) was the result of many debates between the the famous architect and rabbi Mortimer Cohen who led the Conservative congregation that built the structure in the 1950s.


sursa fotografiei: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/civic-center-synagogue-now-the-synagogue-for-the-arts-steven-spak.html

sursa fotografiei: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/civic-center-synagogue-now-the-synagogue-for-the-arts-steven-spak.html


The synagogue in Tribeca, New York, was designed by William N. Berger, completed in 1967 and is also called The Synagogue of Arts. Its undulating facade and curved structure integrates in an elegant manner in a district that is populated with artists and liberal professionals, many of them non-religious and non-affiliated Jews. The programs combine the religious, cultural and social activities trying to be inclusive and open as the environment the community lives in.


sursa fotografiei: http://www.cubanhebrew.com/

sursa fotografiei: http://www.cubanhebrew.com/


A special history also characterizes the Cuban Hebrew Congregation of Miami and its synagogue, the Temple Beth Shmuel completed by Oskar Sklar in 1982. Many of the Jews in Miami are at the origin or descending from the refugees from Cuba who arrived in Florida in the early 1960s. It’s the social, cultural and philanthropic center of Jewish life in the Southern part of the city.


sursa imaginii: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymbalista_Synagogue_and_Jewish_Heritage_Center

sursa imaginii: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymbalista_Synagogue_and_Jewish_Heritage_Center


The campus of the Tel Aviv University is one of the most original centers of modern architecture in Tel Aviv.  The double scroll structure designed by architect Michael Botta built in 1997-1998 is one of the most striking achievements with its external walls of apparent brick that seem to bring to life atemporal shapes and structures.  Located in the same area as the Diaspora Museum the building hosts the Cymbalista Synagogue and the Jewish Heritage Center.

sursa imaginii: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3605459,00.html

sursa imaginii: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3605459,00.html


The Megillat Or Synagogue is located in Caesarea, an ancient city which was at the peak of its glory during King Herod’s time and is developed today in a community of the riches of Israel. The scroll theme is present here as well in the design of architect Knaffo Klimor, as well as the integration with the Mediterranean landscape – the blue skies, the white sands and the green lawn around with their strong colors accommodating well the white walls and the elegant and surely sketched curved lines.


Rosh HaShannah – The Jewish New Year – is a universal holiday. We actually celebrate the birthday of the Universe. To all my friends – Shana Tova, A Good New Year!


With Arik Einstein having left us on the eve of Hanukkah the whole holiday looks different. I do not know how Arik was celebrating the holiday. His daughters married in very religious families, he was in-law-ed with his ex-partner Uri Zohar. Was he keeping the tradition? I have no idea, but certainly music was part of his feelings.


source: joanofcards.blogspot.com

source: joanofcards.blogspot.com


Best way to celebrate Hanukkah this year seems to me to look for some of the music created for the holiday. I did not go back in time but rather looked for some rock variants of the Hanukkah music. The findings show to me as in other cases that there is no one way to celebrate the Jewish holidays and live the tradition.



Here is the ‘Hanukkah Rock of Ages’ – a fabulous collection of rock anthems selected and adapted for the holidays.



Next is Neil Diamond covering Adam Sandler’s ‘The Chanukah Song.’



Last but best is the new one from the Maccabeats created for this years holiday – Burn


Happy Hanukkah! Hag Sameakh!





After many years I renewed this season my subscription at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. An announcement received yesterday inspired me for the theme to pick for this Sukkot holiday. A change in program brings in the first concert of the new season the ‘Ouverture on Hebrew Themes’ by Prokofiev. I searched for it, as I did not know it, and then for some of the pieces of music inspired by the Jewish tradition (and by tradition I mean musical tradition as well) and here are a few of the gems I found.


(video source Raniero Tazzi)


First, here is the piece that triggered my search. Sergei Profofiev’s Ouverture on Hebrew Themes played by the Brodsky Quartet.


(video source goturhjem2)


I also found a splendid piece by Shostakovich which I did not know – the Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67. Here is it’s story as it appears on the youTube page:

Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67, is remarkable for a number of reasons. It was written in 1944, just after his Symphony No. 8, with which it shares its overall structure; it is a lamentation for both Shostakovich’s close friend, musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky, and the victims of the Holocaust, the news of which horror did not reach the U.S.S.R. until the liberation of the camps began; and it is his first work to employ a “Jewish theme,” a musical tribute that used the scales and rhythms of Jewish folk music as Shostakovich knew it.

The interpretation belongs to the Borodin Quartet.


(video source Alexander Rosenblatt)


Pianist and composer Alexander Rosenblatt authored a Fantasia on Theme in Jewish Style for two pianos. Here he is playing it together with Oleg Sinkin.


(video source Wellesz and Co)


In my teens years I had the chance to see Aaron Copland conducting in Bucharest. I now discovered a beautiful piece inspired by the Jewish tradition of Eastern Europe called Vitebsk. This version belongs to the Niew Amsterdam Trio.


(video source Gerard Vecordia)


To end, here is one of the most famous works belonging to this category – Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish symphony. Bernstein conducts this version with the IPO and Montserrat Caballe.


source http://samgrubersjewishartmonuments.blogspot.co.il/2010_07_01_archive.html

source http://samgrubersjewishartmonuments.blogspot.co.il/2010_07_01_archive.html


(illustration – Sukkah meal. Amsterdam, 1722 by Bernard Picart)


I hope that you enjoyed these piece of music at least as much as I did.

Hag Sukkot Sameakh! A Happy Sukkot!



All [personal] vows we are likely to make, all [personal] oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our [personal] vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.”

I found the English version of the declaration that opens the service in the synagogue on Yom Kippur at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kol_Nidre.


source http://www.diabetesdaily.com/voices/tag/yom-kippur/


On the eve of the holiday I looked (again) on some of the beautiful musical works that were inspired by Kol Nidre along the time and some of the special interpretations.


(video source TheCantorsVEVO)


I will start with a synagogue version recorded live in Amsterdam’s historic, 17th Century, Portuguese Synagogue, with three of the world’s greatest cantors.  Performing with a 46 piece orchestra and 16 voice choir are Alberto Mizrahi of the renowned Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, Naftali Herstik of Great Synagogue Jerusalem and Benzion Miller of Young Israel Beth-El of Borough Park, New York.


(video source cdbpdx)


Here is the version sung by sung in Hebrew by cantor Joseph Rosenblatt in 1912 – 100 years ago. It appears on the flip side of his EL MOLE RACHMIN tribute to the sinking of the Titanic.


(video source israelyeshivaguy)


Rabbi, singer and composer Shlomo Carlebach left this version.


(video source 7654328)


The opening of the Adagio of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 is inspired by the tune of Kol Nidre as it was sung at the beginning of the 19th century. If it sounds familiar to you despite the fact that Beethoven’s quartet are not that familiar it may be because the theme was used by the ‘Band of Brothers’ TV series.


(video source kidneykutter)


Beethoven may have heard this version put on notes by Ahron Beer in Berlin in 1765, here performed by René Schiffer & Mime Yamahiro-Brinkmann.



(video source Andrey Granko)


Max Bruch’s ‘Kol Nidrei’ for Cello and Orchestra is op. 47 is probably the most famous piece of classical music inspired by the tune. Here is a variant I heard first time this year and especially liked – it belongs to Misch Maisky and was played at one of the concerts at the 300 years anniversary of Sankt Petersburg.


(video source Jew Man Group)


If (Jewish) humor risks to offend you skip this one and please forgive me, it’s Yom Kippur. If not, you are invited to watch the Jew Man Group in a rap “Kosher” remix of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”!


Judaism is alive, and in today’s world it does not belong only to synagogues of one flavor or another, it belongs to all Jews and is expressed in all forms that remind, preserve, enrich and transmit further our tradition.

Gmar Hatima Tova!

The traditional holiday posting for this Purim gathers music and filmed images, all fun I hope, related to this fun holiday.It’s probably the easiest Jewish holiday to cover :-)


(video source rogatkaproductions)


The first clip shows a Western version of the Purim story.


(video source CantorStephanieShore)


PurimShpiels are staged all over the world, here is one filmed in Boca Raton, Florida.


(video source bluesdance)


… and a tenor’s version with songs from Livorno and Tunis.


(video source CafeComTorah)


The Maccabeats music seldom misses such happy occasions.


(video source goddessbuzz)


The Hamantaschen Song is sang by a group named Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad (is there such a thing? :-) )


source http://www.areyvut.org/resources/holidays_observances/purim/


So go out, put a mask or at least a smile on your face, sing or listen to a Purim song, forget diets and eat some Hamantaschen, it’s Purim!

Hag Purim Sameah!

Tradition is tradition and as on all Jewish Holidays, The Catcher in the Sand celebrated Tu B’Shvat – The Jewish New Year of the Trees with a collection of interesting and fun information, songs, clips gathered from the Internet and related to the holiday.


source http://joshuaventuregroup.org/2011/press/tu-bshvat-an-ancient-jewish-holy-day-for-modern-environmentalists


Some call it an ancient holiday which is a source of inspiration for modern environmentalism. See for example a very interesting article in the Huff Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabe-crane/tu-bshvat-an-ancient-holi_b_810325.html.


(video source Speedy2444)


A more traditional view on the holiday and its significance in the clip above.


(video source OdysseyNetwork)


We can hear more about the holiday in the interfaith ceremony dedicated to the holiday filmed two years ago in a park in New York, ceremony organized by a group trying to bridge between people belonging to different religions and make each faith traditions known to the other.


(video source dgtemkin)


There is something as a Talking Tu B’shvat blues  and the name of the group performing it is Raytones.


(video source AlfredMullerNews)


Here are the Tu B’shvat celebrations in Jerusalem, in the Ben Yehuda Street.



(video source tabletmag)


Here is what a top chef is doing about the holiday which in this season in New York does not enjoy exactly the same weather (and season fruits) as in the Land of Israel.


Tu B’Shvat Sameakh – Happy New Year of the Trees!

It’s the eve of Yom Kippur and the Jewish world prepares for the fasting and the prayers. As I start to build a tradition also for the Jewish holidays on ‘The Catcher in the Sand’ here are a few works of art and pieces of music inspired by The Day of Atonement, as well as youTube clips related to the way Yom Kippur is happening in Israel.



(source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gottlieb-Jews_Praying_in_the_Synagogue_on_Yom_Kippur.jpg)


One of the most famous paintings inspired by Yom Kippur is ‘Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur’ by the Jewish Galician painter Maurycy Gottlieb. The gathering of the Jews in the synagogue, their passion to prayer, the overall atmosphere has both historical accuracy as well as a timeliness that crosses the centuries.


(source http://www.judaicaposters.com/pages/jp303.html)

Here is another work inspired by Yom Kippur painted by the Hungarian-born painter Isidor Kaufmann.


(video source rebezra)


Today in Israel the traditions differ from the different communities that returned from exile. In Jerusalem Sephardic community a month of Slikhot (Forgiveness) prayers culminate in the eve on Yom Kippur (by the time I am writing this blog entry) with a huge gathering and a community prayer at the Western Wall.


(video source damcenenroe)


You may know one of the famous songs of Leonard Cohen  ‘Who by Fire’. Here is a version recorded with the great jazz saxophonist Sony Rollins in 1989.


(video source jordannnnnn)


The song is actually an adaptation of a Yom Kippur prayer. Here it is in another version sang by Leonard Cohen, with the Hebrew and English words.


(video source Bigratus)


The most famous text related to Yom Kippur is Kol Nidre, the declaration of repentance and the pledge taken at the opening of the service in the synagogue. In the traditional service the text is in Aramaic. It inspired a number of musical pieces. A traditional variant is featured in the first spoken (and sang) film The Jazz Singer (1927) by Al Jolson (Asa Yoelon). The story of the song in the famous film is described in a New York Times article.


(video source lynnharrell)


The Kol Nidrei for cello & orchestra, Op. 47, Composed by Max Bruch is the most famous classical music variant. Last year I brought here the splendid interpretation of Jacqueline du Pres, here is another exquisite rendering by Lynn Harrell at the Papal Concert to commemorate the Holocaust as the Vatican in Rome on April 7, 1994.


(video source rapunzelrow)


On a lighter note, not everybody fasts and prays on Yom Kippur in Israel.  As traffic completely stops kids on bicycles (and not only kids) take control of the streets for one full day.


Gmar Hatima Tova – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good

Here we are, on the eve of the Jewish New Year or Rosh HaShana. The Year we enter in this evening is 5772.


source http://torahmusings.com/2011/09/weekly-freebies-rosh-hashanah-books/


The coming of the holiday is announced by the sound of the shofar, which is traditionally a ram horn.


source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AlphonseL%C3%A9vy_Shofar.jpg


Alsacian painter Alphonse Levy shows how it was blown in Europe in the 19th century …


(video source LowellSun)

… and here we have a clip filmed in a Reform synagogue in the US nowadays, we can hear its sound as well.


source http://www.life123.com/holidays/jewish-holidays/rosh-hashanah/guide-to-rosh-hashanah.shtml


As with any Jewish holiday we have food associated. Honey is the main theme of Rosh HaShana with the wish that the next year will be sweet as honey is. We will eat our honey this evening with home made bread prepared by our beautiful daughter-in-law …


(video source MendyTV)


… but some prefer it with apple as we can see in the clip above.


Shana Tova!



Un text interesant si documentat cum sunt intotdeauna cele scrise de prietenul meu Francis Mantel caruia ii multumesc pentru permisiunea acordata de a-l prelua aici.


Apropo de rodii.

Voi mentiona acum doar trei observatii:

(i) Se mananca traditional rodii de Rosh ha-Shana (anul nou evreiesc, care este considerat si ziua judecatii tuturor vietatilor), acolo unde se gasesc rodii. In Romania nu aveam, si mancam doar mere cu miere, pentru a ne ura simbolic, noi noua, un an nou ‘dulce’. Exista chiar un fel de “seder” de Rosh ha-Shana la masa festiva de sarbatoare in ambele seri de Rosh ha-Shana. La evreii de rit spaniol (sefaradim) ritualul este mai luxos si mai complex decat la evreii central (si est) europeni (adica ashkenazim). Mancatul rodiei, cu binecuvantarea potrivita, este parte traditionala din ritualul serii de Rosh ha-Shana.


source http://owlintheoak.blogspot.com/2010/11/pomegranates.html


(ii) Talmudul babilonian in volumul (masehet) Haghiga, pe ultima sa pagina, la foaia 27 (caf zain), pagina intai (amud alef), scrie ceva foarte frumos despre pacatosii de printre evrei. Dorind sa ne explice ca focul Ghehenei din Infern nu are capacitatea sa ii arda pe evreii pacatosi (caci chiar si evreii pacatosi au meritele lor), marele rabin amora-it Reish Lakish (sau Shimon ben Lakish, mare invatat, deseori amintit in partea de Ghemara a Talmudului babilonian; fusese bandit sau talhar inainte de a studia; devenise apoi ginerele marelui rabi Iohanan) , afirma ca ”posh’ei Israel mleei mitzvot ca-rimon“.

Adica, pe romaneste s-ar traduce cam astfel:

Transgresorii (dintre) evrei sunt plini de fapte bune ca rodia (de seminte).


source http://www.drgranny.com/food-nutrition/health-benefits-of-pomegranate/


Filosofic evaluand asertiunea de mai sus, as categorisi-o ca un fel de mecanism de aparare, caci in urma cu circa 1,800 de ani in Iudeea ocupata, distrusa (mai ales dupa anul 135 e.n., cand legiunile romane au inabusit revolta iudeilor sub conducerea evreului Bar Kohba) si cotropita de peste doua secole de catre paganii romani, pentru a-si pastra moralul si dorinta de a supravietui, evreul umilit trebuia, macar el insusi, sa aiba o parere pozitiva despre sine. Self-respect. Psihologul ar putea numi actul asertiunii din Talmud ca fiind o incercare de auto-terapie, si de auto-incurajare, pentru a nu despera.

Cum mangaie dulce, alina usor/ Speranta, pe toti muritorii!”


source celebrationofcreativity.com


(iii) In alt volum din aceeasi enciclopedie vasta si bogata amintita mai sus, numita Pesahim, la foaia 74 (daf aiin-daled) pagina intai (amud alef), in Mishna de acolo se descrie cum mielul pascal care era sacrificat la Templul din Ierusalim de catre fiecare familie de evrei care venea la Templul din Ierusalim in cinstea sarbatorii de paste (in ebraica: “aliia la-Reghel”), trebuia apoi fript pe foc direct (tzalui esh), dupa ce mielul sacrificat si curatit de maruntaie era strapuns de la cap la coada cu un trunchi de ramura (adica un batz) de pom de rodie, pentru a fi proptit astfelo deasupra focului: “Keitzad tzolim et ha-Pesah (korban ha-Pesah)? Meviin shipud shel rimon vetohvo le-toh piv (shel korban ha-Pesah) ad beit nekuvato (shel korban ha-Pesah) … .” Se explica apoi de ce tocmai batul e bine sa fie din lemn de rodie si nu alt lemn.

Inchei aici, mentionand ca rodia apare si in Cantarea Cantarilor a regelui Solomon, in niste epitete sublime de dezmierdare a iubitei autorului. Acest poem extraordinar trebuie recitat vineri dupa amiaza, inainte de rugaciunile de primire a Shabat-ului, caci este recomandat in codul de comportare evreiasca (Shulhan Aruh) ca (cel putin!!!) in noaptea de Shabat (adica in noaptea de vineri spre sambata) fiecare evreu evlavios (daca este talmid haham, adica invatat si cu minte) trebuie neaparat sa ii dea atentia cuvenita sotiei sale. Nu cred ca e nevoie sa fiu mai explicit. Iar citirea poemului erotic (chiar si fara de metaforele filosofice adaugate despre dragostea lui D-zeu pentru poporul asa zis ‘ales’, ci cu versurile poemului luate asa cum sunt ele … la propriu) il va pune pe omul serios ”in the right mood”, cu pofta si libido pentru actiune benefica … trupului si sufletului.

Pentru ca: “Vita nostra brevis est./ Brevi finietur”.

They say that Not Everyday is Purim, but today it is (or almost)! We went out for a morning walk in Herzlya and the streets were full of Queens Esther, brave Mordechai’s and Gadhafi’s … uh … sorry … Haman’s. Let’s see what new, interesting and fun material can be found on the Internet about this holiday.

(video source MaccabeatsChannel)

The Maccabeats are a a capella group formed in 2007 by students at the Yeshiva University. You can learn about them and hear their music at http://www.maccabeats.com/. Here they are with a Purim song put on the net a few days ago.

(video source einpratfountainheads)

The same song gets here an interpretation mixing rap and dance in the Israeli landscape coming from a group named The Fountainheads.

(video source kartiv2)

Here is a home video by a musician from Israel named Sivan (she writes it C-van) Yihye whose videos on youTube are really fun.

Hag Purim Sameach!

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